Wallace, Darwin and Huxley

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Wallace, Darwin and Huxley

#1  Postby jerome » Apr 30, 2012 10:20 am

OK, just spotted this on of all place the SPR website. Alfred Russel Wallace remains of interest to anyone tracing the development of our ideas of Natural Selection, and Charles Smith at Western Kentucky University is compiling an archive of writings and articles on ARW. I thought perhaps some readers of the forum would have something to contribute or would like to look at the material already online.

You can read his appeal and see the links to the archive here
http://www.spr.ac.uk/main/news/contribu ... 9D-website

(The link with the SPR was that ARW was a member, but left as I recall in 1888 accusing us of being sceptics and debunkers. He was of course a committed Spiritualist, and indeed wrote a considerable amount on his ideas of Evolution and Spirit. This is probably one reason why he is so overshadowed by Darwin in popular consciousness these days)

EDIT: Here is a direct link to the Wallace webpage - http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/index1.htm but the appeal for assistance is on the SPR one. I'm assuming most people here will have knowledge of his influence on biology ideas rather than his more er, eccentric ones, so I have posted it in this subfora. It could go in History or Paranormal, but ARW's real influence was in Biology

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Re: Call for Wallace related material

#2  Postby DavidMcC » Apr 30, 2012 12:56 pm

... ARW's real influence was in Biology.

If that is true, then it is just as well that Darwin over-shadowed him, because the latter obviously understood the subject a great deal better than Wallace.
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Re: Call for Wallace related material

#3  Postby jerome » Apr 30, 2012 2:26 pm

I don't think that's true. Have a look at the FAQ files: after all Darwin and Wallace came to the famous gentleman's agreement, and Darwin remained on best terms with Wallace until his own death in 1882 and freely acknowledged his debt to ARW. Some say he did not go far enough - there is a considerable debate as to whether Darwin "ripped off" Wallace's ideas in the 17 months between receiving it and publishing Origin but Wallace never said he did and Darwin had been working on his research for two decades - he was basically worried that Wallace would pre-empt him, and Wallace secure in his position as the most celebrated naturalist of his age, and indeed the most famous scientist of his time, let Darwin publish his book first, and they had both their papers read together. Wallace's work was absolutely essential though, and Darwin always acknowledged that? It is just the way history works that we all know of Charles Darwin now, and very few have heard of the more famous at the time ARW?
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Re: Call for Wallace related material

#4  Postby jerome » Apr 30, 2012 6:22 pm

Just another quick thought before I go back to pondering C. hortensis colouration -- it could be that ARW's radical socialist politics were even more fatal to his reputation than his Spiritualism (and Huxleyan style agnosticism, much like Darwins, though Darwin was more reticent in discussing his faith or lack thereof). The only reason this occurs to me is that we hear little today of one of my great scientific heroes (though I am well known as anti "hero" anyway). JBS Haldane. Dunno. Just a thought!

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Re: Call for Wallace related material

#5  Postby DavidMcC » May 01, 2012 8:58 am

... there is a considerable debate as to whether Darwin "ripped off" Wallace's ideas ...


I don't see how that would have been possible, given that Wallace's ideas were based on "intelligent evolution". The website below is a typical pro-Wallace site:
http://www.erasmuspress.net/Publications_3.html

Though based upon very different formulations of natural selection, the Wallace/Darwin dispute as presented by Flannery shows a metaphysical clash of worldviews coextensive with modern evolutionary theory itself – design and purpose versus randomness and chance.


So, it's hardly likely that Darwin "ripped off" Wallace's ideas. Also, Wallace's ideas were NOT equivalent to Darwinian natural selection at all.
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Re: Call for Wallace related material

#6  Postby jerome » May 01, 2012 3:14 pm

DavidMcC wrote:
... there is a considerable debate as to whether Darwin "ripped off" Wallace's ideas ...


I don't see how that would have been possible, given that Wallace's ideas were based on "intelligent evolution". The website below is a typical pro-Wallace site:
http://www.erasmuspress.net/Publications_3.html

Though based upon very different formulations of natural selection, the Wallace/Darwin dispute as presented by Flannery shows a metaphysical clash of worldviews coextensive with modern evolutionary theory itself – design and purpose versus randomness and chance.


So, it's hardly likely that Darwin "ripped off" Wallace's ideas. Also, Wallace's ideas were NOT equivalent to Darwinian natural selection at all.



Hi David!

Thanks for the response. I have not read Flannery -- though despite my distaste for ID proponents books I may well make an exception and buy this one and review it as it appears to make a historical case on what is essentially a historical question. There is a very good but short critical review on the "a simple prop" blog which makes clear that the book is pushing an ID agenda -- in fact Dembski write the introduction. The review is here http://blog.jmlynch.org/2009/12/31/wall ... ent-design, and the blog looks really good, I'll follow it now. as it chronicles the current fight against ID and YEC being taught as science in the USA.

Now did Wallace believe in ID? In simple terms, no. Some have argued he believed in Theistic Evolution, but I actually think that is wrong as well. The site linked in the original post by me above is the best archive of Wallace's writings on the web, and there we find an entry on Wallace and ID which read as follows...

Question: Did Wallace believe in intelligent design?

Answer: No, no, and no. Assuming that i.d. essentially amounts to nothing more than a new name for Creationism, that is. Don’t fall for the facile understanding being promoted by some agenda-driven observers who argue that, just because Wallace was a spiritualist and believed that “higher intelligences” were influencing events here on Earth, that he also believed in miraculous, non-law-based kinds of Godly intervention. Read his own words on this matter here. Wallace did increasingly lean toward a model of natural processes invoking final causes, but this is quite another matter: even the relatively conservative thinker August Weismann was willing to entertain views of final causation (see S352), as long as these did not rely on vitalist or creationist assumptions. Are those who explore Gaian models and the various versions of the anthropic principle being accused of i.d. tendencies? Well, what Wallace was thinking about in some ways closely approaches these lines of thought–only he added to the mix the notion that “higher intelligences” might also represent an integral element in the way the large-scale program of evolution plays out.


So yes Wallace had some strange ideas, and Darwin was a bit uncomfortable with his Spiritualism: in fact when the Darwin household participated in a seance Charles as I recall retired ot bed with a headache fo fear he would be convinced of Spiritualism, and was delighted when his brother was seriously unimpressed by a second seance after his first positive impression. I could have it wrong,m but you can look up Darwin's account in the Darwin Correspondence archive online. :) You can also read his correspondence and immense respect for Wallace the scientist, and full admission of his influence and support of Darwin's work.

Now I noted that I did not think that Wallace was a Theistic Evolutionist. He does seem to have had some teleological ideas, but they are actually sort of reverse teleology - moving towards a final outcome, with discarnate (dead) human spirits guiding the process. I'm not sure at all that Wallace believed in Divine Intervention - my feeling based on reading his work is that he may like many spiritualists of the period have been essentially atheistic, seeing the world in terms of natural forces, and his spirits were not supernatural but were natural entities bound by natural law and part of the closed system of the Universe. I could well be wrong -- but if i am right it puts him more in a Hegelian tradition, or even something akin to Blavatsky's Theosophy or various other 19th century spiritualistic groups than ID or Theistic Evolution. Actually I think the closest analogy is to Huxley, who proposed a "higher teleology" underlying Evolution, and was plain in his writings that the work of Darwin had no repercussions at all for the question of ultimate purpose or theism: Huxley however dis not believe in Special Revelation, a God revealing himself to man, or in miraculous suspension of the laws of nature as far as i can follow his thinking in Agnosticism.

In all these cases what we believe we know today is always horribly distorted by the nonsense of the last 50 years. Myths have sprung up - indeed the first set were growing by the end of the 19th century, like the famous Wilberforce - Huxley debate exchange -- and people have horribly distorted the history and development of scientific questions to promote philosophical, religious and atheist agendas. Last night I was reading a biology text book on Evolution for an undergrad course I'm doing for fum - I won't name it, but this 2011 book has shocking errors in the historical material, and repeats uncritically a number of myths. The reason I won't name it is because I don't think it matters all that much -- because this is an undergrad Biology textbook, not a historical one, and the Biology in it is really first rate - but it really will teach you some utter bollocks in passing about Lamarck, Darwin, Huxley and Lysenko that no modern historian of science would accept, but which are all popularly believed by intelligent educated people.

So yep, agenda driven people will misrepresent what Wallace believed, just as most people don't understand at all what Darwin actually believed, and ultimately it may not matter. As I always say, what we know now would be surprising to Darwin - the modern evolutionary synthesis owes as much to Mendel of course, and far more to the decades of work that have followed. Still if you want to read one of my iconoclastic essays on Darwin from the old forum on the myths that have arisen around him, my essay Damning Darwin is here --

http://jerome23.wordpress.com/2010/01/0 ... f-science/

I'll address the influence of Wallace on Darwin's work and the rip off claims in a later post - there is serious academic debate, but I'm not particularly convinced either way for reasons given in my previous posts (it does get a good mention in the infamous text book though, which properly credits ARW as co-creator of Natural Selection in Evolutionary Theory).

Always a pleasure to discuss history, even in the Biology forum! :) Do have a look at my essay if you have time, it may surprise you. And thanks for chatting about his - most people just fall asleep when I get involved in talking about these things, so it's always wonderful to find someone interested!

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Re: Call for Wallace related material

#7  Postby DavidMcC » May 01, 2012 6:39 pm

jerome wrote:Now I noted that I did not think that Wallace was a Theistic Evolutionist. He does seem to have had some teleological ideas, but they are actually sort of reverse teleology - moving towards a final outcome, with discarnate (dead) human spirits guiding the process.

That's bad enough, AFAIAC. As Huxley put it, Darwin "killed god", and I reckon he also killed "discarnate human spirits" with the same dagger (or whatever he "killed god" with).
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Re: Call for Wallace related material

#8  Postby jerome » May 01, 2012 10:14 pm

DavidMcC wrote:
jerome wrote:Now I noted that I did not think that Wallace was a Theistic Evolutionist. He does seem to have had some teleological ideas, but they are actually sort of reverse teleology - moving towards a final outcome, with discarnate (dead) human spirits guiding the process.


That's bad enough, AFAIAC. As Huxley put it, Darwin "killed god", and I reckon he also killed "discarnate human spirits" with the same dagger (or whatever he "killed god" with).


:)

Except that Huxley never said that. OK, Huxley the character says it in the film Creation, but Huxley never held anything like that opinion as far as I can see from the primary sources: and Huxley was never one to be shy talking about his religious ideas. Creation is a fine work of art, but not in any way to be trusted as a source: it portrays Huxley like some weird version of Dawkins. :) The screenplay is based on Randall Keyne's excellent Annies Box but neither pretend to be strict biographies: Keynes book is an interpretation of his ancestor's life, and a moving one.

The film also misses out a crucial step in the development of the Wallace Darwin relationship and the promulgation of their work, as it omits any reference as I recall to the joint presentation of the their papers in absentia (Darwin was at his sons funeral, Wallace abroad) to the Linnean Society in 1858. Instead the implication is (wrongly) given that Darwin was moved to work on On the Origin again by the correspondence with Wallace panicking in to believing he would be preempted -- partially true, and indeed the book was far shorter than planned, but Wallace and Darwin reached their gentleman's agreement in 1858 so their was no real time pressure on Darwin and he was working on Origin anyway. I could go on and on: I'm a historian, and can see the spin in the film, like the utter misrepresentation of the relationship between Darwin and the local reverend -- but such things are acceptable in a novel or a film, for artistic reasons -- "why let the facts get in the way of a good story" - but we should not mistake them for truth. As you may have gathered I regard the so called religious opposition to Darwin's ideas as mythical, the creation of three decades later, and also as it happened Thomas Huxley would have fully agreed with me.

For example Huxley wrote

Huxley wrote:“The antagonism between science and religion, about which we hear so much, appears to me to be purely fictitious - fabricated, on the one hand, by short-sighted religious people who confound a certain branch of science, Theology, with religion; and, on the other, by equally short-sighted scientific people who forget that science takes for its province only that which is susceptible of clear intellectual comprehension”. T.H.Huxley, "The Interpreters of Genesis and the Interpreters of Nature" in Science and Hebrew Tradition


So what did Huxley think of Darwin's ideas impact on religion? Well again let us hear from the man himself...

Huxley wrote:The teleology which supposes that the eye, such as we see it in man or in the higher vertebrata, was made with the precise structure which it exhibits, to make the animal which possesses it to see, has undoubtedly received its death-blow. But it is necessary to remember that there is a higher teleology, which is not touched by the doctrine of evolution, but is actually based on the fundamental proposition of evolution. That proposition is, that the whole world, living and not living, is the result of the mutual interaction, according to definite laws, of forces possessed by the molecules of which the primitive nebulosity of the universe was composed. If this be true, it is no less certain that the existing world lay potentially in the cosmic vapour; and that a sufficient intelligence could, from a knowledge of the properties of that vapour, have predicted, say, the state of fauna of Great Britain in 1869, with as much certainty as one can say what will happen to the vapor of the breath on a cold winter’s day.”

Academy 1869


Now in fact there are perfectly good reasons why we have come to regard Huxley as the belligerent opponent of Wilberforce. A few I can list immediately off the top of my head One of these, often overlooked, is that the (probably) mythical exchanges in the 1860 Oxford debate between Huxley and Wilberforce are reported by John William Draper, who had read a paper which actually was the main focus of the evening, On the intellectual Development of Europe. This is the same John William Draper who creates the myth of a conflict between Science and Religion as inevitable in 1874 in his book The Conflict of Science and Religion. Draper's hypothesis has come to be far more accepted by all sides than Darwin's and Wallace's, yet is based on rather less historical or empirical evidence. J.R. Lucas' paper on the events of that night is a superb analysis of what probably actually happened - http://users.ox.ac.uk/~jrlucas/legend.html

What we do know is that Wilberforces objections were scientific in the main, and probably revolved around the incompatibility of Evolution with physics -- objections most strongly put forward by Lord Kelvin, who Darwin disliked a great deal. Those objections were probably fatal to the theory in most physicists eyes until we understood the sun was not combusting but a nuclear reaction, forty years later. We also know that Huxley and Wilberforce remained on good terms and working together on projects long after the debate.

Now Huxley was not actually entirely dismissive of spirits and life after death either - to Charles Kingsley, September 23 1860

Huxley wrote: I neither affirm nor deny the immortality of man. I see no reason for believing it, but, on the other hand, I have no means of disproving it. I have no a priori objections to the doctrine. No man who has to deal daily and hourly with nature can trouble himself about a priori difficulties. Give me such evidence as would justify me in believing in anything else, and I will believe that. Why should I not? It is not half so wonderful as the conservation of force or the indestructibility of matter...


Huxley was genuinely agnostic, unsurprisingly as the man who gave us that term --

Huxley wrote:When I reached intellectual maturity and began to ask myself whether I was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an idealist; Christian or a freethinker; I found that the more I learned and reflected, the less ready was the answer; until, at last, I came to the conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of these denominations, except the last. The one thing in which most of these good people were agreed was the one thing in which I differed from them. They were quite sure they had attained a certain "gnosis,"–had, more or less successfully, solved the problem of existence; while I was quite sure I had not, and had a pretty strong conviction that the problem was insoluble. So I took thought, and invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of "agnostic." It came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the "gnostic" of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant. To my great satisfaction the term took.


I happen to have an immense liking for Huxley, and think he was far from the caricature he appears as in Creation.

Perhaps sometimes the facts should get in the way of a good story after all... :grin:

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Last edited by jerome on May 01, 2012 11:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Wallace, Darwin and Huxley

#9  Postby jerome » May 01, 2012 11:35 pm

Right, I mentioned earlier i would discuss the debate on whether Darwin "ripped off" Wallaces ideas... I also noted I don't think he did, but really the jury is out on this one. I would defer to Smith and Andrew Berry the great authorities on Wallace here - you can check out Andrew Berry here -- http://isites.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?ke ... page264537

Smith summarizes the issue really well in the ARW site FAQ so let's start by quoting that

Question: Did Darwin really steal material from Wallace to complete his theory of natural selection?

Answer: Maybe, though the evidence is something short of compelling. It has been suggested by Brackman (1980) and Brooks (1984) that Darwin might have received Wallace's communication in May or early June of 1858 rather than in the middle of June of that same year, and that Darwin may have spent the extra month using Wallace's model of species divergence to complete his own ideas on the subject before soliciting the opinions of his friends Hooker and Lyell on how to deal with the priority issue. Possibly so, but despite the best efforts of Brooks (1984) in particular, most observers remain unconvinced. A book by Davies (2008) presents new evidence supporting the suspicion that Darwin really did receive Wallace's communication in 1858 earlier than has been thought (Davies also presents some other arguments), but more recent work by John van Wyhe and Kees Rookmaaker seems to demonstrate that Wallace's communication in fact did arrive at the later date. Nevertheless, the situation is still somewhat up in the air, as it is difficult to assess just how much Darwin's thoughts might have been influenced over the seventeenth month period between his reception of Wallace's materials and his own writing up and release of On the Origin of Species in November 1859. See additional analysis by Beddall (1988) and Berry (2002).


http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/index1.htm

Ah but that still does not really explain why this is an issue - so let me quote from from Science Daily --


In 1972 a researcher found another letter from Wallace to a friend named Bates that was sent on the March 1858 steamer from the island of Ternate in modern Indonesia. The letter still bore postmarks from Singapore and London which showed that it arrived in London on 3 June 1858 -- two weeks before Darwin said he received the essay from Wallace. Thus began the mystery -- how could two letters from Wallace leave Ternate on the same steamer and travel along the same mail route back to London but Darwin received his two weeks later than Bates did? This mystery has led to numerous conspiracy theories. For example, several writers have claimed that Darwin stole ideas from Wallace's essay during the time he kept the letter secret. But most other evidence suggests that Darwin received the letter when he said he did.
The article is good -- http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 062545.htm

Now if anyone is interested, have a look at this rather lovely collection of some of their letters during the period in question -- http://rjohara.net/teaching/uncg/freshm ... -1-letters

Contrary to the impression David seems to have acquired, few historians of Science doubt Wallace and Darwin were very much on the same page, and we know that they made an agreement. However the exact sequence of events is as you can see from the FAQ entry I cited above, hotly disputed. It even makes the broadsheets every few years. ;) Still the Natural History Museum London are in agreement with me as is Sir David Attenborough that Wallace is vitally important to the story of Natural Selection

The Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project (WPC) is based at the Natural History Museum and its Patron is Sir David Attenborough. The WCP is digitising all known letters to and from Wallace, the brilliant naturalist whose contributions to the development of evolutionary theory were as important as Darwin’s, but who was quickly forgotten after his death, perhaps because later generations thought that the theory of natural selection was first proposed by Darwin in his book 'On the Origin of Species'.
from http://www.nhm.ac.uk/about-us/news/2011 ... 02142.html - a major initiative, please support the hunt for Wallace's missing letters.

Still let's cite a bit more from the Natural History Museum site

Missing letters

But, there are 2 intriguing missing letters, written in 1858. One letter is from Wallace to Darwin and includes Wallace’s essay on natural selection, the process by which the fittest individuals of a species are more likely to survive, reproduce and pass their advantageous characteristic to their offspring. The other letter is Darwin’s reply to this.
Wallace's note about the loss of his original essay on evolution by natural selection, ar 1902

Note from Wallace on an envelope dated to around 1902, about the loss of his original letter and essay on evolution by natural selection. Darwin's reply to this historically important letter is missing and was the 3rd and most important in this envelope of 8 letters that Wallace kept. The Wallace Correspondence Project would very much like to find it.

‘These are some of the most important letters in the entire history of biology,’ says George Beccaloni, Director of WPC and scientist at the Museum. ‘It is very odd that they were lost in the first place.'

The letters show how Wallace independently came up with the same theory as Darwin, the theory that changed forever how we understand the world around us.


It is not really odd if as numerous scholars appear to believe Darwin was at pains to take the credit and had used Wallace's essay to finish his book. It makes no difference to our understanding of Evolution today, but it makes a big difference in other ways: Wallace may have been the victim of a shameful breach of scientific ethics. The fact remains that while Wallace, a bona fide [g/i]enius, came up independently with Natural Selection before the publication of [i]On the Origin, Darwin had certainly been working on the idea for decades. And in fact one can trace the idea of Natural Selection back through the Medieval Theologians and right back to Ancient Greece anyway, just as Evolutionary ideas have a very long pedigree. In fact I might do that for both is anyone really cares, but the important things i Wallace and Darwin independently developed the empirical case for them by research, and whatever you think of his wacky spiritualist ideas, his radical politics, or his working class background, ARW remains an outstanding indeed awesome fellow.

However, as you may well know, a new research initiative claims to have shown that Wallace's letter was recieved by Darwin on the day he said it was: note however that previous researchers have argued exactly the opposite. It has been shown that a steamer from Singapore could have made the trip and delivered the crucial letter on the 18th June, and you can read the paper van Whye, J Rookmaaker, K (2012) A new theory to explain the receipt of Wallace's Ternate Essay by Darwin in 1858, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. The Abstract follows, because I am nothing but dull...

Abstract
In early 1858, when he was in the Moluccas, Wallace drafted an essay to explain evolution by natural selection and posted it to Darwin. For many years it was believed that the Ternate essay left the island in March on the monthly mail steamer, and arrived at Down House on 18 June 1858. Darwin immediately wrote to Lyell, as requested by Wallace, forwarding the essay. This sequence was cast in doubt after the discovery of a letter written by Wallace to Bates leaving on the same steamer with postmarks showing its arrival in Leicester on 3 June 1858. Darwin has been accused of keeping the essay secret for a fortnight, thereby enabling him to revise elements of his theory of evolution. We intend to show that Wallace in fact sent the Ternate essay on the mail steamer of April 1858, for which the postal connections actually indicate the letter to have arrived precisely on 18 June. Darwin is thus vindicated from accusations of deceit. Wallace’s Ternate essay and extracts from Darwin’s theoretical manuscripts were read at a meeting of the Linnean Society of London on 1 July 1858, which is now recognized as a milestone in the history of science.


Anyhow, I think I trust van Whyes judgement on Darwin's correspondence way more than I trust any other scholar alive todays, so it may well be a non-issue - but I thought I'd discuss it a bit, just to point out that ARW was every bit as important as I said.

The Truth of the Theory of evolution and Natural Selection is a scientific matter: the philosophical and religious positions held by Darwin, Huxley and Wallace have no bearing upon the vast body of evidence on evolution. Yet time and time again poor old Darwin and Huxley are dragged out to "support" Atheism as if they had something to say on the matter -- and the Atheism/Theism debate is a theological and philosophical one, on which Science, bounded as it is by metaphysical naturalism as a foundational axiom, has nothing to say. That bothers me little, and nor do the myths in circulation from all sides in the religious and atheist debates, but bad history will always irritate me, from YEC loonies, or from advocates of the other side. :D

Hope mildly amusing.
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Re: Wallace, Darwin and Huxley

#10  Postby Tero » May 01, 2012 11:40 pm

Wallace was quite accomlished in the field. Esp. with species and geogr. boundaries.
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Re: Wallace, Darwin and Huxley

#11  Postby jerome » May 01, 2012 11:42 pm

Absolutely. The Walllace Line, his work in the Amazon, his work all over the place. I'm immensely fond of him. I happen to utterly disagree with his spiritualist ideas, but I still find him incredibly fascinating as both a person and a scientist

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Re: Wallace, Darwin and Huxley

#12  Postby Tero » May 02, 2012 1:41 am

Of the two, I see Wallace cheerfully following Darwin. Darwin came from wealth, Wallace was a self made man.
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Re: Wallace, Darwin and Huxley

#13  Postby jerome » May 02, 2012 1:42 am

Yep very true, though Wallace was far more famous than Darwin as I understand it at the time?

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Re: Wallace, Darwin and Huxley

#14  Postby DavidMcC » May 02, 2012 8:37 am

jerome wrote:Except that Huxley never said that. OK, Huxley the character says it in the film Creation, but Huxley never held anything like that opinion as far as I can see from the primary sources: and Huxley was never one to be shy talking about his religious ideas.


I stand corrected. So, Darwin "killed god" without Huxley as an accomplice! Does that not mean that Darwin himself was the leading atheist in biology at the time? Wallace can only have been confused by his own spritualism, and would not have been able to take Darwin's place as the exponent of evolution by common descent with modification. Darwin's only problem was his rejection of the then new science of genetics as a vital part of his own theory, so he had to fall back on Lamarckian ideas to fill in the gap. He nevertheless deserves more credit than Wallace for advancing the theory of evolution. If Wallace had prevailed, we might all be thinking it was the fairies that did it. Even Darwin himself was forced to backtrack in later editions of his greatest book, but by then, I guess the "cat" öf natural selection was out of the "bag".
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Re: Wallace, Darwin and Huxley

#15  Postby jerome » May 02, 2012 9:45 am

Well Mendel was doing his experiments between 1856 and 1863, so Darwin can't be blamed for not knowing about them. Mendel did not publish till 1866 in the Proceedings of the Natural History Society of Brunn and while copies were sent to the Royal society and Linnean Society no one appears to have paid any attention; Darwin as far as I know never mentions Mendel once in his correspondence. Mendel was fully aware of Darwin, owned On the Origin and in 1870 as I recall points out an error in botany made by Darwin with regard to pollination. The two chaps were simply doing their work at the same time, and Mendel gave us the basis for genetics, Wallace and Darwin natural selection.

I don't think Wallace's spiritualism would have made any more impact on his science than his radical politics did if he had actually published first.Hundreds of thousands of later scientists would have as with Darwin refined his ideas, and Wallace kept them nicely separate in his scientific writing in line with the principle of methodological naturalism, not that anyone had outlined it then. I think it would have had no more impact than say Newton's weird religious beliefs have had on the development of physics - in fact I think that may be a good analogy.

As to Darwin's atheism - I'm not convinced Darwin was particularly atheist, or atheist at all. He wrote in 1879

[Down Beckenham | Kent

May 7th 1879

Dear Sir

It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist.— You are right about Kingsley. Asa Gray, the eminent botanist, is another case in point— What my own views may be is a question of no consequence to any one except myself.— But as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates. Moreover whether a man deserves to be called a theist depends on the definition of the term: which is much too large a subject for a note. In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.— I think that generally (& more and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.

Dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin


The letter is here, on the Darwin Correspondence Archive - http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-12041

He was however absolutely a rational sceptic, and his ideas seem similar in many ways to Huxley, in terms of what Huxley meant by an agnostic. Now to be fair, Darwin's personal beliefs matter not one jot more than Huxley's or Wallaces do - after all if having extremely strong religious beliefs automatically messed up your science then we are in trouble, as Mendel (a devout monk) and Newton demonstrate, but obviously the idea that the personal religious beliefs of the advocate fo a scientific theory are in any way relevant tot the truth of their science is clearly untrue.

Poor old Darwin, who seems to have resisted the urge to talk about his religious doubts in public throughout his life (indeed his public statements in the Voyage of the Beagle era are very pro-Christianity: his doubts came later) has had his religion cross examined ever since. I think it's a matter indifferent. What was really horrible was the Lady Hope story, of Darwin's "death bed conversion". Still, that is probably based in truth in as far as i think it very likely Lady Hope visited Darwin (despite the denials of his children) and they talked about religion, and Darwin may well have muttered some pious platitudes out of deference and so as to not offend his visitor, and perhaps to speed her on her way. Answers in Genesis utterly refute the story, as you might expect - a pious Darwin is the last thing they want. So do most Darwin enthusiasts who happen to be atheists. The disgusting thing is that everyone has tried to claim Darwin as there own in terms of faith: I don't think it matters ta all, and rather wish people would respect his wish not to have his work associated with his personal religious beliefs, or have those a matter of public scrutiny.

Still while discussing Darwin and faith and Lady Hope, I think Livingstone (2005) gives a wonderful overview, and strongly encourage anyone interested in this stuff to read it - here is the pdf of the relevant chapter -- http://being.publicradio.org/programs/d ... aplain.pdf

Anyway, these are just historical questions, not science ones. :cheers: :cheers:

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Re: Wallace, Darwin and Huxley

#16  Postby DavidMcC » May 02, 2012 10:10 am

jerome wrote:Well Mendel was doing his experiments between 1856 and 1863, so Darwin can't be blamed for not knowing about them.

Yes, but Darwin certainly knew that new-fangled things called genes existed, because AFAIK, one of his biggest mistakes was rejecting them as an important part of the mechanism of evolution, on the basis that they did not appear at the time to be connected with change from one generation to the next, which was what he was looking for.
As to Darwin's atheism - I'm not convinced Darwin was particularly atheist, or atheist at all. He wrote in 1879

[Down Beckenham | Kent

May 7th 1879

Dear Sir

It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist.— You are right about Kingsley. Asa Gray, the eminent botanist, is another case in point— What my own views may be is a question of no consequence to any one except myself.— But as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates. ...


I guess that, by 1879, he was "feeling the pinch" of intense peer pressure, including from his devout wife. This is what made him seem to back-track on the atheism he had previously come to through his studies of evolution, and "watered down" later editions of his great book, sadly. (Although, this did not matter too much, as the earlier editions were not destroyed.)
As for your claim that Wallace somehow separated his irrational beliefs from his work, no doubt, the experimental details were unaffected, but clearly his interpretation of them was at risk.
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Re: Wallace, Darwin and Huxley

#17  Postby DavidMcC » May 02, 2012 10:13 am

... Or are you going to suggest that no-one around him sugested that it would be bad for him to remain an atheist?
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Re: Wallace, Darwin and Huxley

#18  Postby DavidMcC » May 02, 2012 10:18 am

jerome wrote:I think it would have had no more impact than say Newton's weird religious beliefs have had on the development of physics - in fact I think that may be a good analogy.

Well, Newton did not help science with his strange ideas, but these were not directly related to his actual scientific work in any case, IMO. They were more like an unrelated "hobby-horse".
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Re: Wallace, Darwin and Huxley

#19  Postby jerome » May 02, 2012 10:29 am

DavidMcC wrote:... Or are you going to suggest that no-one around him sugested that it would be bad for him to remain an atheist?



I don't think he was ever actually atheist . He seems to have said many times he was not. He was agnostic, on that scientific basis of working from available data and making tentative conclusions, but there was a big literature about of the God question could be a scientific one, and pretty much everyone seems to have thought not.

I think the problem he had was not people attacking him for being atheist - it was that he genuinely seems to have like, Huxley, disliked atheism as a term, and the people who stood for it in his time.


Huxley was very clear what he believed

Huxley wrote:I have never had the least sympathy with the a priori reasons against orthodoxy, and I have by nature and disposition the greatest possible antipathy to all the atheistic and infidel school. Nevertheless I know that I am, in spite of myself, exactly what the Christian would call, and, so far as I can see, is justified in calling, atheist and infidel. I cannot see one shadow or tittle of evidence that the great unknown underlying the phenomenon of the universe stands to us in the relation of a Father [who] loves us and cares for us as Christianity asserts. So with regard to the other great Christian dogmas, immortality of soul and future state of rewards and punishments, what possible objection can I—who am compelled perforce to believe in the immortality of what we call Matter and Force, and in a very unmistakable present state of rewards and punishments for our deeds—have to these doctrines? Give me a scintilla of evidence, and I am ready to jump at them.


and

Huxley wrote: The one thing in which most of these good people were agreed was the one thing in which I differed from them. They were quite sure they had attained a certain "gnosis" - had, more or less successfully, solved the problem of existence; while I was quite sure I had not, and had a pretty strong conviction that the problem was insoluble. So I took thought, and invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of "agnostic." It came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the "gnostic" of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant.


Now Darwin could have had a problem with publicly letting his scepticism be known - I think he was under social pressure, but it was not from persecution - that was coming from the physicists, base don their incorrect criticisms, though perfectly understandable in the terms of the knowledge of the time. He had support from some geologists who had rejected catastrophism - but much of his support, including Asa Gray who was crucial in the spread of his ideas, was from Evangelicals. To use some words from my essay I linked:--

Evolution was pioneered in America by the devout Evangelical Asa Grey, writing Darwinia (1876) which reconciles his Evangelical beliefs with orthodox Darwinism, and indeed being the only non-British member of the Darwin circle who saw Origin of the Species (1859) prior to publication. He dedicated much of his life to publicising and popularising Darwinian Evolution. A large number of Evangelicals were already evolutionist and many of the objections raised to Darwin’s ideas (like those of Soapy Sam Wilberforce) were primarily scientific not theological. The Evangelicals response was extremely positive. John Van Wyhe (Historian of Science, Cambridge University, leader of the Darwin Online Project) published a very interesting article in BBC History magazine — January 2009 – Volume 10 in which he exposes ye olde myth of church opposition.

Now, who accepted evolution in those first years? It’s a who’s who of Evangelicals — BB Warfierld, AH Strong, Van Dyke, Landey Patton, AA Hodge, WT Shedd, James McCosh — all hard core Evangelical leaders. Let us not forget Frederick Farrar, James Orr, Charles Kingsley and Henry Drummond, who Henry Morris castigates for misleading Christians – the father of YEC loudly denounced the dreadful treachery of his Evangelical forebears in accepting Darwinism or other forms of Evolutionary theory.
These Evangelicals critique the science from time to time, but accepted fully its theological compatibility with their Evangelical beliefs. Others like Rev.Macloskie, JD Dana, GF Wright, JW Hulke etc were evangelicals who fought hard for the scientific NOT just the theological acceptance of evolution – one could go on, but many historians of science and religion have already surveyed this territory and found that on both sides of the Atlantic works in favour of Darwin in Christian circles far outnumbered the minority opposition of Darwin. So who damned Darwin? It was not the Church of his day.

Even The Fundamentals, the founding manifesto of Christian fundamentalism, contained a positive tract advocating evolution, albeit Lamarckian, and critiquing Darwin on scientific grounds as I recall. Literalist YEC appears with Scopes and reappears with Morris in the 1960's. Much of what we think we know about Darwin and the church is mythic.

So yeah, Darwin may well have wanted to not offend his most vocal supporters?

Still this is why I love history: checking the facts often shows how much of what we think we know is just myth

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Re: Wallace, Darwin and Huxley

#20  Postby DavidMcC » May 02, 2012 10:50 am

jerome wrote:Now, who accepted evolution in those first years? It’s a who’s who of Evangelicals...

You don't think they were the first ID-ers, then? ;)
I can't imagine they were in it for the godlessness!
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